Company with NY hedge fund connection wants to raze 89-year-old home

Jeffrey Altman and 2156 North Bay Road
Jeffrey Altman and 2156 North Bay Road

A company connected to a $4 billion New York hedge fund wants to demolish an 89-year-old waterfront Miami Beach house and replace it with a two-story home and tennis court.

The company, called 2156 Sunset Lake LLC, is managed by Reuben Kopel, general counsel of Owl Creek Asset Management, a company Bloomberg News listed at No. 6 in its January ranking of the 100 top producing hedge funds. The Kopel-managed entity bought the 8,706-square-foot home by Sunset Lake at 2156 North Bay Road from E. Thomas Collins Jr. for $7.5 million in April. On Tuesday, the Miami Beach Design Review Board (DRB) will discuss the proposal to replace the house, built by Mead Construction Company, with a 5,335-square-foot contemporary-style home and a regulation-size tennis court designed by Coconut Grove-based architect Max Strang.

And two properties next door to 2156 North Bay Road that also have connections to Owl Creek have already been razed in favor of new construction. The hedge fund is owned and managed by Jeffrey Altman, a financial guru hailed by the press for his daring investment moves

A company listed at Owl Creek’s New York address bought a home that was built in 1974 at 2128 North Bay Road in a foreclosure sale for $2.93 million in January 2011. A 10,000-square-foot house constructed by Strang Architecture and already approved by the DRB is being built there. And another company listed at Altman’s personal address in New York bought 2142 North Bay Road in August 2013 for $6.75 million. The 1925-era home there is being demolished and replaced with another Strang-designed 10,000-square-foot home.

Neither Strang nor Kopel returned phone calls to The Real Deal by deadline.

Daniel Ciraldo, chair of the Miami Design Preservation League’s public policy committee, lamented the proposed demolition of 2156 North Bay Road and held Altman responsible.

“He is demolishing a beautiful pre-1942 home in order to put a tennis court and cabana in its place,” Ciraldo said.

Ciraldo isn’t worried only about the fate of that home: He pointed out that requests for demolitions of architecturally significant pre-1942 homes have surged from three in 2011 to 35 in 2014. Most of the 35 homes approved for demolition this year are on the waterfront.

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“There are only around 500 [pre-1942] homes that are on the waterfront,” Ciraldo said. “Around 7-to-10 percent of these waterfront mansions are approved for demolition each year. We aren’t going to have too many anymore if we keep going at that rate.”

Ciraldo argued historic homes are what make Miami Beach neighborhoods like North Bay Road special.

“Single-family homeowners are outraged as their neighborhoods become 24/7 construction sites,” Ciraldo said. “Once the developers flip the home, they move on to the next one. It is out of control.”

The future of 2156 North Bay Road isn’t the only item concerning demolition on the DRB’s Tuesday agenda.

Randall Whitman, son of Bal Harbor Shops founder Stanley Whitman, is seeking permission to demolish 2817 Lake Avenue and replace it with an 11,196-square-foot mansion designed by Pinecrest-based architect David Wearne Johnson. Ciraldo said the existing 9,984-square-foot home at the site was designed by acclaimed modernist architect Robert Law Weed and built in 1939.

Whitman’s plans also include the preservation of a “one-story entrance garage house,” according to a planning department report. Whitman bought the house from New York real estate investor Steve Witkoff for $14.8 million in July 2013.

Also on the agenda is Chicken Kitchen founder Christian de Berdouare’s application to demolish a circa-1956 home at 5750 North Bay Road that’s famous for being a refuge from screaming fans of The Beatles when they visited Miami Beach in 1964. That application, however, will be postponed until a later date.

Lennar CEO Stuart Miller will ask for a delay on his application to demolish an 80-plus-year-old home built by Miami Beach founder Carl Fisher and replace it with a larger contemporary home, as previously reported by TRD.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Daniel Ciraldo believes Jeffrey Altman owns all three North Bay Road properties. The version also incorrectly identified Polly Lux as the original builder of Randall Whitman’s home.